3D ‘Nutcracker’ enters crowded field

Freestyle looks to carve slice of holiday pie

3D pics face holiday screen crunch

Freestyle Releasing is prepping for a David vs. Goliath-style battle this holiday season — in 3D.

The indie distrib plans to launch Russian helmer Andrei Konchalovsky’s “Nutcracker in 3D” in six U.S. markets on Nov. 24, before expanding the following week. During its initial bow, Freestyle’s 3D fantasy will go head to head with Disney’s “Tangled,” then face a rush of other 3D titles in subsequent weeks.

For indie companies, facing higher-profile 3D studio fare is daunting, but doing so when screen capacity is stretched and even studio pics are struggling to get seen is a prospect that’s not for the faint of heart.

Lionsgate’s 3D toon “Alpha and Omega” stalled during the post-summer rush, squeezed by two 3D studio pics, “Resident Evil: Afterlife” and “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole.” Lionsgate managed to secure just over 1,600 3D screens for “Alpha,” while Sony’s “Resident Evil” occupied some 2,200 and Warner’s “Legend” nearly 2,500.

Peter Graves, president and founder of Cinemarket Films, the company handling marketing for “Nutcracker,” admits that getting the word out about the film and securing 3D screens were some big hurdles.

“Our plan facing the realities of the marketplace was to take the film out on a very elevated platform approach,” Graves says, adding, “The ‘Nutcracker’ story has a very substantial following, and with its seasonality, you can develop a pretty good profile going into the market.”

As the only Christmas-themed film in the seasonal mix, Graves hopes “Nutcracker” will gain traction with holiday-minded moviegoers. “It always evolves into a battle for good screens,” he adds. “The larger studios have a large impact on the marketplace, and they can get a large chunk of exhibition.”

According to Mike Chico, a marketing exec at theater ad company Screenvision, average audience recall for 2D ads is 55%; while 3D recall is 74%, a potential boon to 3D indies looking to distinguish themselves from the pack.

“Clearly, 3D is still a plus in the marketing of a film, and particularly effective for the family market,” Graves says. “It’s a tremendous amount of hard work, but I do believe we have a lot of advantages going for us.”

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